Weekend Roundup: Somewhere and Super 8

You can call it the ‘Elle Fanning movie weekend’ 😀 I had never seen her in anything, and suddenly within one weekend, I saw two movies starring Dakota’s 13-year-old little sister. I didn’t think I’d have time to see two movies this weekend given how busy things got, but we had to watch Somewhere as we actually got it last weekend from Netflix! I really should’ve just returned it when we couldn’t watch it last week 😦

Somewhere (2010)

I think the more fitting title for this is Nowhere. The fourth feature film from Sofia Coppola promises much but delivers little. The movie centers on a 30-something Hollywood star Johnny Marco who seemingly has everything a man could want: girls, money, fast cars, etc. I mean the guy lives at the Chateau Marmont Hotel for crying out loud. But despite his fame and fortune, he is disillusioned with his career, it’s not until his young daughter’s visit that he’s compelled to rethink what he’s done with his life.

Coppola illustrates Johnny’s boredom over and over again in almost mind-numbing repetition, just like the intro with Johnny driving his black Ferrari as fast as he could in a loop five times before he finally stops and still bored out of his wits. He falls asleep watching two blond twins pole-dancing in his hotel room, and he even dozes off right in the middle of sex!

The reason I rented this is because I like Lost in Translation, though it’s quite a polarizing film as I know a few of my friends hated it. So I came in with a moderate expectation that I’d at least appreciate it even if I may not thoroughly enjoy it. Boy, was I wrong. Stephen Dorff ain’t no Bill Murray, whose screen charisma can lift and spice up Coppola’s low key, almost lethargic style. There’s nothing wrong with being minimalistic if the director can tackle it properly, but I don’t think this movie has a compelling story — nor performance — to justify it. Speaking of minimalistic, not only is there no editor in this movie, there don’t seem to be a hairstylist either judging from Dorff’s hairstyle (or lack thereof).

Speaking of performances, Stephen Dorff looks believably weary and lonely, but I don’t really buy him as this big movie star. I mean, yes I get it that he’s desensitized to life’s pleasures, hence his bored look throughout the film, but I’d think he’d at least appear charismatic in front of the public so we see the duality of his persona. But no, there’s none of that movie star’s charm present at all, whether he’s in Hollywood, Italy or whatever.

Elle Fanning on the other hand, is quite memorable as Johnny’s 11-year-old daughter. But the series of activities they spend together fail to really engage not because of lack of chemistry, but because Coppola’s lack of direction. As for the denouement, well, there really isn’t one… and boy do I feel cheated as I really was expecting a big payoff to make the whole thing worthwhile!

It really leaves me scratching my head how in the world does this movie win the Golden Lion award at Venice Film Festival… is it because she’s a Coppola?? My friend Ted tweeted me saying that perhaps Sofia is a one-hit wonder? Well, I haven’t seen her two other movies yet, but I don’t think I care to find out.

1.5 out of 5 reels


Super 8 (2011)

I put this as one of my anticipated films this year for pure nostalgia reasons. The trailer reminded me a lot of Steven Spielberg’s ET which was such a timeless tearjerker. This time, Spielberg served as producer with J.J. Abrams at the helm based on his own script. The result? Super 8 is pretty much ET/The Goonies meets Cloverfield (at least judging by the trailers as I haven’t seen that movie).

Kids often get top billing in Spielberg’s movies, and this time it’s no different. Set in the Summer of 1979, a group of Junior High friends witness a mysterious train crash right in the middle of shooting a film with their Super 8 camera. That massive accident sets off a myriad of strange happenings that rock their idyllic small town that prompt the kids to investigate the freaky phenomenon.

Abrams took some time to get us invested in the characters before the main event arrives. Joe Lamb has just lost his mother four months prior and his detached dad Jackson wants him to attend camp for the Summer. But Joe would rather help his friend Charles make his zombie thriller movie for a film festival. The friendship between these kids feels natural and engaging, and once again Elle Fanning makes an impression as Alice, the object of Joe and Charles’ affection. It’s right in the middle of an important emotional scene with Alice when suddenly a car drives onto the track as the train approaches, and kaboom!! The train crash itself is nothing short of spectacular, and Abrams did a good job in keeping us in suspense as to what that creature is on board the train.

The movie works on many levels, for sure it’s technically proficient. The retro look and feel of the movie really takes you back in time, and the special effects enhances the story instead of overwhelming it. The acting is notable, especially the young ‘uns 15-year-old Joel Courtney and 13-year-old Fanning who are the heart of the film. Kyle Chandler is good though he generally relegated to second banana status and wasn’t really given much to do. Joe’s friends are quite an entertaining bunch, though they’re too foul-mouthed for my liking.

The third act get to be too much though, I had just read this insightful commentary on Castor’s blog about the ‘more’ philosophy of JJ Abrams. It sure seems like Abrams likes to ‘pile on the peril’ as I call it, not to mention those pesky lens flares, he’s definitely obsessed with them! There are giant loopholes in the plot as big as the monster in question, but in the end it doesn’t derail the movie. Perhaps I’m more forgiving on that front because I feel the ending is quite satisfying. It has the earnestness and warm, fuzzy feeling that’d probably turn off cynical moviegoers, but I kind of expect that considering this is a throwback to Spielberg’s classics. It’s also worth staying for the end credits, man these kids are really talented, Charles is basically a young Spielberg in the making.

I don’t think the re-watchability factor is all that great though. I’d rather watch Abrams’ previous movie Star Trek several times over than seeing this again. But I’d say it’s worth seeing in the cinema, especially if you’re a big fan of Spielberg and Abrams’ work.

Three and a half stars out of Five
3.5 out of 5 reels


So what movie(s) did you watch this weekend? If you have seen either one of these, do let me know what you think in the comments.

FlixChatter’s Most Anticipated 2011 Movies – Part I

This post has been in my draft folder for a while… originally I wanted to post right after award season is over. Now Oscar is already behind us for nearly a month (boy, I kinda forgot about it already), so I better not procrastinate any longer.


This post will be divided into two parts, Part I is from March – July and Part II consist of movies released in the later half of 2011. I only list those that I’d most likely be seeing in the cinema, based on the release date information from Movie Insider as of last night. As dates get shuffled and more movies are added, I will update this list accordingly. Anyway, here they are in order of release:

MARCH

March 11 (limited) – Jane Eyre
Synopsis:
The Gothic story of a lowly governess who captures the heart of her employer Mr. Rochester, only to discover that he’s hiding a terrible secret.


I’ve blogged enough about this topic that I don’t think I need to explain further why this is on the list. Check out the
trailer and stills from the movie. I can’t wait to finally see this in two weeks and find out how Michael Fassbender fares as Rochester compared to my all-time favorite.

APRIL

April 22 Water for Elephants
Synopsis: A 90-year-old man reminisces about his life during the Depression, when he found work at a B-level circus taking care of the animals. He sees the brutality of circus life while falling for the wife of an abusive animal trainer.

There’s something about the world of the circus that intrigues me, it certainly adds a layer of mystique to the love story. Amongst a sea of comic-book superhero flicks, it’s nice to see a romantic drama to break things up. The trailer looks pretty promising with gorgeous setting and lovely music. Rob Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon seem to have a decent chemistry and having Christoph Waltz here is a big plus. I’m ready to be swept away 🙂

Maybes:

  • HannaEric Bana and Cate Blanchett in one movie… how bad can it be? The premise of a child assassin isn’t very appealing to me, but still I might be curious enough to check it out because of the cast. Plus I like director Joe Wright’s previous work.

MAY

May 27 Tree of Life
Synopsis: The story of a Midwestern family in the 1950’s. The film follows the life journey of the eldest son, Jack, through the innocence of childhood to his disillusioned adult years as he tries to reconcile a complicated relationship with his father (Brad Pitt). Jack (played as an adult by Sean Penn) finds himself a lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life while questioning the existence of faith.

Click image for more photos at Collider.com

I’m more intrigued about this more for its director, Terrence Malick (who also wrote the screenplay), than for the cast (Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Jessica Chastain). Malick’s last feature film The New World was back in 2005, which is a relatively short gap compared to the 20-year span his fans had to wait between Days of Heaven (1978) and the Thin Red Line (1998). The premise is intriguing and promises to be thought-provoking, and judging from the poetic trailer below, a sweeping visual vista is to be expected. This is certainly on the list of virtually every movie sites/blogs out there. I know it’s highly unlikely but it’d be nice if for once a movie like this beats a franchise film like Pirates at the box office.


Maybes:

  • Thor – Though initially I was anticipating this, the two trailers have been underwhelming. I’ll wait for the reviews before deciding whether to see it in the cinema or rent this one.
  • The Beaver – Yes, I don’t mind seeing a Mel Gibson movie. It actually looks pretty amusing from the trailer and the script made the top of the 2008 Black List (a list of yet-unproduced top screenplays picked by about 250 Hollywood execs).


JUNE

June 3 – X-Men: First Class
Synopsis:
Before Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr took the names Professor X and Magneto, they were two young men discovering their powers for the first time. Before they were archenemies, they were closest of friends, working together with other Mutants, to stop the greatest threat the world has ever known. In the process, a rift happens that propels the eternal war between Magneto’s Brotherhood and Professor X’s X-Men.


This one is probably in my top five anticipated movie of the whole year. If you still don’t know anything about this movie, check out the
trailer and the gorgeous character posters. I think Matthew Vaughn has picked a wonderful cast for the main characters, especially James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender as Charles and Eric respectively. The dynamic relationship between these two are what I’m looking forward to the most.

June 10 – Super 8
Synopsis: In 1979, after the Air Force closes a section of Area 51, all materials are transported to a secure facility in Ohio. A train carrying some of the materials derails during an accident and something escapes from one of the cargo cars. A group of kids making movies with their Super 8 cameras accidentally capture what escapes on film.

The teaser that came out a few weeks ago was intriguing, but it wasn’t until the full trailer came out that I’m actually excited about this one. It’s a throwback to the classic Spielberg sci-fi movies like ET and the kids-cast kind have that Stand by Me vibe to it. The auteur is teaming up with JJ Abrams who wrote and directed the movie. The creator popular TV show Alias, Lost and Fringe, Abrams proved his directing chops in Mission: Impossible III and Star Trek, so I’m cautiously optimistic about this one. Kyle Chandler is a likable actor who finally gets to shine in a leading man role, good for him.

JULY

July 15 – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II
Synopsis: The final adventure of Harry Potter as he attempts to bring an end to his nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

This is the event all Potter fans been waiting for. No matter how you feel about the first installment (read my review), one thing we can all agree on is it made us look forward to this final film all the more. One of my favorite parts of this franchise is watching all those British thespians in various roles, both good and evil, and we’ll finally learn which side he/she really is on (I’m looking at you Professor Snape).

July 22 – Captain America
Synopsis: After being deemed unfit for military service, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top secret research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America’s ideals.

I’m not as familiar about Capt. America amongst other Marvel superheroes. But the two main reasons I’m anticipating this are Aussie thespian Hugo Weaving as the main villain Red Skull and the retro look and feel of the movie, which director Joe Johnston has done before with Rocketeer. One thing for sure, Johnston has a knack for casting great actors in the role of villains (as he did in the role of fabulous baddie Neville Sinclair). Plus, one of my fave British actor Richard Armitage also has a small part as Nazi officer Heinz Kruger. The trailer looks pretty decent, so at the very least this could be the perfect popcorn entertainment of the Summer.


……

July 29 – Cowboys & Aliens
Synopsis: Set in 1800s Arizona, a battle between cowboys and Apaches is interrupted by the crash landing of a space ship. The alien commander plans to tame the Old West and enslave everyone, but the cowboys and Native Americans turn their six-guns against the alien invaders.

Initially I was a bit disappointed that Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t going to re-team with his Iron Man director Jon Favreau for this, so it kinda fell off my radar. But then I saw the trailer and went ‘whoa!’ It’s got to be one of the most memorable trailers I’ve seen for upcoming movies, it’s bizarre in an exciting kind of way. I mean, it’s hard not to be intrigued even just reading the title! Gritty Bond Daniel Craig looks all bad ass in his cowboy outfit and whatever it is on his wrist certainly looks cool. Add curmudgeon Harrison Ford into the bargain (and sexy Olivia Wilde for the boys), then this just might be the one to beat at the box office this year.
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PART II will be posted later this week. For a full listing of ALL movies released in 2011, visit the-numbers site.


Well, any of your anticipated movies make the list? What movie(s) are you anticipating this Summer?